Opinion Letters

Hamilton Township eyes 2.95% tax increase

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

Hamilton Township finance director Paul Dowber takes council through the draft 2018 budget working papers on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at the township hall. The draft budget is premised on an almost 3% tax levy increase, utilizing reserves and other revenues to keep the increase to this level. After another session set for Dec. 7, the budget will come before council for approval Dec. 19, according to the published schedule. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today

Hamilton Township finance director Paul Dowber takes council through the draft 2018 budget working papers on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at the township hall. The draft budget is premised on an almost 3% tax levy increase, utilizing reserves and other revenues to keep the increase to this level. After another session set for Dec. 7, the budget will come before council for approval Dec. 19, according to the published schedule. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP -- Hamilton Township finance director Paul Dowber took council members through the draft 2018 budget "working papers" premised on a 2.95% tax levy increase over this year.

While some decisions were made that expand the budget as suggested, final approval of the 2018 document isn't scheduled until Dec. 19.

One such decision was to hire a deputy chief building official to augment the planning and bylaw services provided through the township's building department. The cost would be about $100,000 but if a summer student isn't hired this year the net cost would be about $84,800, council was told.

At this time the township only has a chief building official, Tim Jeronimus, who has been dealing with about $20-million worth of building projects this year, compared to about $12-million last year.

"A lot of municipalities are desperately looking for chief building officials," Mayor Mark Lovshin said. If building demands go down in the future, the services of a second township building official could be "farmed out to other municipalities," he said.

Another significant item council agreed upon was to buy another new fire vehicle in addition to the one already ordered and arriving in January.

The $650,000 price tag would come from reserves ($500,000) and development charges ($150,000).

This dual-purpose pumper/tanker truck for the busiest of all three fire department stations in the township, located at Baltimore and servicing Highway 401, will allow two other vehicles to be retired from service, councillors were told.

"Both as fire chief and a taxpayer, the cost of fire trucks is disgusting," Fire Chief Kelly Sorsen said. In just a few years prices, exacerbated by the differential in the U.S. dollar, have gone from $350,000 and $400,000 to $650,000.

In January, the pumper tanker that was ordered previously will be going to the Harwood fire station replacing a 20-year pumper there, council was told.

After this second fire truck expected to be ordered soon, there shouldn't be any huge outlays for the fire departments until 2032 and by then the reserve account should be built up to handle them, Sorsen and Dowber said.

As council went through the 2018 draft budget working papers, line-by-line, Dowber showed how the 2.95% increase of an extra $223,413 was required for the proposed $7.796-million 2018 budget over the tax levy amount needed for the 2017 budget of $7.573-million.

This increase includes a 2.9% "overall" salary increase including benefits, Dowber said, although it fluctuates up and down between departments.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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